It’s been a few weeks since Virginia’s mom, Rosalie Kirk, passed away. After a trip to Maine, during which Virginia grieved in motion, we’re back home in Pennsylvania and feeling Rosalie’s presence in the negative—the lack of the evening phone call, the absence of a need to plan a trip down to Maryland.
In this time without, I’m trying to remember her in the positive, to think about the things she held in regard—her love for music and theater, for coffee, for her family—and the ways she had an effect on those she knew.
As her son-in-law, I remember how she always was a strong advocate. Rosalie was proud of her family—from her two children to the families that grew around them—and she wasn’t shy about sharing that pride. Sometimes she poured it on a bit thick (I mean, I’m a pretty good husband and son-in-law, but I knew better than to believe Rosalie’s pronouncements about me), but I never took it as some kind of overblown pride. Rosalie had overcome a lot and was justifiably happy to see things working out for those she loved. And for herself, because somehow, despite being widowed at 39 and spending the next 5 years not working while she cared for her kids, she saved enough in her life that, when she decided at 80 she wanted to sell her house and move into a lovely community at Vantage House, she did it. And once there, she flourished for her final 5 years. I’m not sure how exactly she managed it (though I looked in the dictionary and next to the word scrimp, I saw her photo), and I don’t miss the months before moving as we cleaned up the house for its sale and her departure from it, but I remain impressed by her ability to discern the life she wanted and to make it happen.
In addition to be sneakily effective, she had an uncanny ability to remember darn near everything. One of the most touching moments in her final days was when her sister Doris called and told her, “Rosalie, you can’t go. You’re half of my memory.” As if to prove it, a little later Doris was referring to a time she and Rosalie had traveled together and saw a Broadway play, and Doris was trying to remember who the star was, I looked in Rosalie’s eyes and you could sense her desire to fill in the blank, to interject “Patty LuPone! It was Patty LuPone,” even as she was struggling mightily to breathe and stay alive. She was still there, and she still knew. It made me think how family memories are indeed shared treasures, how we all share a threaded memory, a collective story.
Deeper than her knowledge was her deep love for her children, for those they loved and those they brought into her life. Those last few days what stayed and buoyed me was knowing how we had known and loved each other through decades. It was realizing that in deep ways, we were each others’, and that time was short.
What follows is Rosalie’s death notice in The Baltimore Sun. After it, I’ve posted some photos. I encourage you to leave a memory of Rosalie in the comments below. We could do this on Facebook, but I wanted to create something that Virginia and others could come back to over time.
Also, here are some photos from Rosalie’s 80th birthday celebration.
Rosalie Carroll “Roz” Kirk, 86, former longtime Hammond Village resident, passed away Sunday, Sept. 6th, surrounded by family at Gilchrist Center in Columbia, Md.
Mrs. Kirk, the daughter of Charles Carroll, a street car conductor, and Mary Catherine Kochanski, was raised on South East Avenue in Baltimore near the Patterson movie theater and graduated from Patterson Park High School. She studied for a year at Goucher College and worked a number of jobs-including at Pratt Library and the University of Maryland medical school library-and completed an English degree at University of Maryland, College Park. She met her husband, Charles “Chris” Kirk of Darlington, Md., there and soon settled in Howard County. While raising her two children, she was active in the Howard County League of Women Voters. She also was active with the Girl Scouts, as a Troop Service Director for the Hammond Village area, and served on the board of the Hammond Park Recreation Inc. After the early death of her husband and love of her life in 1974, Mrs. Kirk worked in market research and spent 12 years with IRI.
She loved to travel with her sister and they enjoyed Elderhostel tours and cruises throughout Europe and the United States, often focusing on opera and musical theater.
Mrs. Kirk moved to the Residences at Vantage Point in 2015 and quickly found an active life attending musical events, movies and lectures, playing bridge and making new friends while reconnecting with old ones.
She is survived by her son Chris Kirk and his wife, Susan, of Silver Spring, and her daughter Virginia Kirk and her husband, Kevin Donahue, of Eagleville, Pa., as well as her sister, Doris Plaine of Columbus, Ohio, her niece Mary Carroll Plaine and her life partner, Ellie Eines, of Baltimore, Md., four grandchildren (Peter Donahue, Kelly Donahue, Ryan Kirk and Emily Kirk) and a great-granddaughter, Mia Potoma. Arrangements will be made by the family. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Maryland Food Bank or Sundays at Three Chamber music series.